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People and Planet: It is becoming increasingly clear that the United States is not immune to climate change

Today, temperatures in Portland, Oregon, may exceed 100 degrees. Both Oregon and Washington are under excessive heat warnings. 

Such temperatures in the northwestern region of the U.S. were previously unheard of. It is incredibly rare to see temperatures of 90 degrees several days in a row in the region; it’s now facing a highly destructive heatwave as forests burn and people flee to find clean air. 

The effects of this summer’s unbearable heat are not sanctioned only to the western part of the U.S., but have triggered mass flooding and storms on the East Coast earlier this summer as well. Across the midwestern and southwestern U.S., there have been widespread power outages due to stress on electrical grids.

All across the country summer heat waves have been occurring earlier, more frequently and more intensely than ever before and this trend is certain to continue, posing the question, “How hot is it going to get?” In an unsettling article by BBC, a simple answer with great implications is given: too hot for humans due to the increase of humidity alongside heat.

The human body cools itself down mainly through sweating. However, rising humidity levels prevent sweat from evaporating off the skin. When the ability to sweat is impaired, the body cannot properly adjust its internal temperature, causing overheating. Overheating can then lead to heat stress, and vital organs may begin to shut down.

This becomes an even greater problem for those laboring outdoors, such as farmers and workers at building sites, as well as those working in factories and hospitals in areas where air conditioning is sparse. The heat can also impair the quick decision making skills needed in high-stake environments.

Since the dawn of industrialization in the 1850s, people have become accustomed to convenience. Scientist Guy Callendar connected carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere to global warming in 1938.

People in power have been aware of the potential havoc pumping our atmosphere full of chemicals would have on future civilization for 84 years, and with the exception of a sanction on emissions for the automobile industry here or on the agricultural industry there, very little has been done by the U.S., which accounts for 24.5% of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to offset and reduce.

As individuals living in a wealthy country, most Americans feel that they will be able to escape this environmental crisis unscathed. However, each summer the oppressive heat squeezes us a little harder, looming on our coasts as a sinister reminder that unlike the manmade infrastructures of war and corruption, this is an issue that we cannot buy away at this point. Perhaps 20 or 30 years ago, but our politicians remained stubbornly and stagnantly unresponsive to the desperate pleas from experts simply because they personally couldn’t feel the effects of the changing climate. All that we can be sure of now is the regret we will feel in the coming years because of this.

Meg Diehl is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug.


Meg Diehl

Assistant Opinion Editor

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